Thursday, 29 April 2010

I Need a Holiday.

Well we finally got away from the UK exactly a week late. The flight from Hong Kong to Auckland was a bit rough as we had a 165kph tail wind bouncing the plane around but on the bright side we arrived in Auckland 40 minutes early. This allowed us a bit of extra time for a coffee with Dot’s sister Mary. Upon arrival at Wellington we had quite a welcoming committee waiting for us, son’s Richard and Brent and our good friend Jenny were all there.

The last 3 days has seen us running around all over the place getting things sorted, making appointments and umpteen phone calls. It’s not going to improve for several days yet as Dot is returning to Auckland for a 60th birthday bash and I am heading South to Nelson to see my daughter. This should prove quite an experience as it is only a single engine 12 seater aircraft. The weather is supposed to be fine so that should help.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Air New Zealand Airline of the Year 2010

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“Annual Industry Achievement Awards

AIR NEW ZEALAND NAMED AIRLINE OF THE YEAR BY AIR TRANSPORT WORLD MAGAZINE

NEW YORK, NY – Penton Media’s Air Transport World®, the leading monthly magazine covering the global airline industry, today announced the selection of Air New Zealand as its Airline of the Year for 2010. The Auckland, N.Z.-based carrier is being honored for its superb commitment to safety and operational excellence, typified by the use of Performance Based Navigation cockpit technology at weather and terrain challenged destinations, and for its superb and groundbreaking customer service that combines high-tech, passenger-friendly IT systems with high-touch and caring staff.

The editors further cited Air New Zealand's sterling financial performance and fiscal management during one of the most turbulent periods in aviation history. They also were strongly impressed with the airline's leadership role in addressing environmental challenges facing the industry, including conducting the world's first sustainable biofuel flight.”

The Air Transport World Global Airline Awards are undoubtedly the Oscars of the airline industry and for Air New Zealand to be recognised as the number one airline in the world by some of the toughest and most highly respected critics is one of the greatest accolades they have ever

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Up up and away

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They say today has been the warmest day of the year and we are leaving, only temporarily at this stage.

By the time you read this we should be aboard an Air New Zealand Flight to Wellington, New Zealand. We have a lot of business to attend to including visits to both our elderly parents as well as I will be flying to Auckland to attend my sister Mary’s 60th Birthday and checking out her new home.

We have managed to squeeze in a caravan rally with our caravan club members in lovely Greytown in the Wairarapa as well, so there will be no rest for the wicked. We will be away just over four weeks so we will need a holiday when we return I should think.

We will keep the blog updated with the help of my sons internet connection.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

It’s all go.

We had not long returned from a quick shopping trip to the farm shop at the entrance of the marina when the phone rang. It was Air NZ offering us seats on an extra flight out of Heathrow tonight. Apparently it was via LA which would have been handy for the extra luggage allowance. However we felt that it was too shorter notice for us to be able to organise the boat, catch a bus or taxi to Stafford and then the train to London. Pity, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Thank you Air NZ for your consideration.

At least we do have a booking for Saturday which all being well should be on schedule. Air NZ already have one plane in the air from Auckland and another due out 2 hours later so by Saturday they should be back on track.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Another day in limbo.

Yesterday we took a bus to Stafford to partially replenish the larder that was empty due to our impending departure.

Another day of on again,off again air travel which is starting to become a bit of a worry about whether we will in fact get away on Saturday?

Today was too good a day to waste so I have been out there attacking a bit more rust and doing some more prep work ready for painting. Luckily I have only been using primer undercoat because when I went to check the state of the paint there is a lot of little gritty bits all over the paintwork. Now I wonder where that came from? That blasted Icelandic volcano I presume. Ah well it’s only undercoat.

Just heard on the news that all airports are now reopening, hopefully on Saturday we will be on our way.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Monday, 19 April 2010

Making the most of it.

Well as we sit here watching the lack of world air travel slowly grinding half the world economy to a stand still, we tend to overlook the thousands of tonnes of perishable air freight and general freight come to that, that gets flown around the world, much of it at present slowly rotting in warehouses everywhere. The longer the volcano keeps erupting the more chance of airlines going bust and smaller economies suffering badly. Doesn’t bear thinking about but we cannot control Mother Nature.

We are making the most of the fine weather by getting some preparation work done ready to paint later in the year. Last night was spent on the computer emailing messages backwards and forwards to all our friends and relations in New Zealand explaining the situation and passing on our new itinerary assuming we get away next Saturday, fingers crossed.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

It’s Gone Pear Shaped.

Well it had to happen. Our flight back to NZ has been cancelled due to the Volcanic Ash. We were advised to contact our airline which we have done using an 0800 phone number (50 minutes on the mobile chewing up £10) but at least we have been able to rebook exactly 1 week later. Hopefully the ash cloud will have gone by then. If not, then quite a few airlines could finish up going bust. The only down side is the loss of our train tickets to London which luckily were El Cheapo tickets at £12.

It does mean leaving the boat in the marina an extra week but that is no problem. Upon our return we will have to re-think our timetable down to Rugby for our 6 monthly medical check ups.

Blow wind blow.

This morning we moved the quarter of a mile up into the marina to get ourselves sorted ready for tomorrow what ever that may bring. As I write this, Heathrow is closed until 0100hrs Saturday morning which only gives us a 20 hour window before our scheduled take off but I suspect our aircraft is stuck in Hong Kong so who knows! I certainly don’t. We have a contingency plan to stay with Tracey in Wimbledon if things go pear shaped, until we can get away. No use looking for a hotel, they are already full.

Unlike my prediction for the outcome of last night’s leaders debate which turned out spot on. Shame we won’t be here for the next debate which if Clegg wins again will certainly have the other 2 shaking in their boots. It’s about time that 2 party politics got a shake up.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Dear oh dear. What now?

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. With us due to fly out of Heathrow on Saturday night our departure looks a little shaky. What we need is a shift in wind direction to blow the ash cloud North up over the Arctic away from the UK and even Europe. Perhaps if everybody points an electric fan in a Northerly direction on full power it might just do the trick. It won’t do much for power consumption but what ever! Let’s hope that a wind change does come about very soon.

On the other hand there is going to be plenty of hot air coming from the ITV studio’s in Manchester tonight perhaps that might do some good. Clegg 1st, Cameron 2nd, Brown 3rd, any bet’s?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Getting sorted.

0 Locks, 0.66 Miles. Now moored at Great Haywood Junction.

This morning we moved back up to the Great Haywood Junction. The reasons behind the move were so that we were closer to the bus stop and we are now closer to the Great Haywood Marina where we will be leaving the boat on Friday morning while we fly home to NZ for a month’s holiday.

Once we had secured a mooring it was into the village to catch the bus to Stafford. A walk across the park from the bus depot to the railway station in Stafford and we were on our way to Rugby to see our doctor about Dot’s on going Neuralgia problem. He has now doubled the dosage and given her a couple of month’s supply so fingers crossed we may have the problem under control.

2214 locks, 4250.39 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Biding our time.

What a fantastic time weather wise we have had this week-end. It has been absolutely glorious. Plenty of boats are now on the move on a daily basis so the new season is well and truly under way.

Today we wandered up to the farm shop next to Great Haywood Marina for just a few supplies. While there we spotted a canal scene cross stitch we thought would keep one of us busy during quiet periods.

Tixall 009Just a duck disturbing the calm water at Tixall Wide.

Dot’s Neuralgia problem is still causing her distress despite having a few good days immediately after her hospital visit. We have managed to secure a doctors appointment with our GP that entails catching a train down to Rugby from Stafford on Wednesday and see about an increased dosage for her new prescription.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Wash Day Blue’s or Cruise.

0 Locks, 0.66 Miles. Now moored at Tixall Wide.

Several factors came into play today. First up was that we had been at the junction for 48hrs (maximum permitted), second was that it was a cracker of a day for a short cruise, last but not least was the washing machine was full. You guessed it, wash day!

We pulled up onto the water point to ensure we had plenty of water for the next few days and the washing machine was part way through it’s cycle before we left. Today has been the first day this year we have thrown open the doors front and rear to allow the lovely warm breeze to flow through cooling the boat. If this is a taste of Summer to come it’s going to be a scorcher.

2214 locks, 4249.73 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Unsatisfactory response.

This morning we have received a reply from the Staffordshire County Council regarding buses no longer stopping at Great Haywood Marina on the bridge over the canal. Well I’m afraid that they seem to be completely overlooking the safety of pedestrians, merely concerned about the possibility of road accidents.

Needless to say I have replied pointing out 2 very simple remedies that would satisfy everybody's needs and concern’s. Banging my head on a brick wall? Probably, but you have to stand up and be counted and have your say.

A further response has now been received and my emails are being passed onto another authority (Area Highways) Apparently what I suggested  comes under this authority not that of Transport. Ah well perhaps we might get somewhere after all.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Slowly improving.

0 locks, 0.85 Miles. Now moored at Great Haywood Junction.

First and foremost we would like to thank all those lovely people who have sent Dot Get Well messages, there are too many to thank personally but you know who you all are. Dot’s condition has improved to the point where she is now able to eat and drink a little, but the side effects are that she is left drowsy and light headed which will hopefully wear off as she improves.

Well with the week-end nearly upon us we decided it would be wise to go to Anglo Welsh today for diesel, water and pump out as the week ends are not a good time to call when they are very busy with their hire fleet. It was a wise decision because upon arrival we found ourselves 3rd in the queue and there has been a steady stream of boats calling in ever since.  We finally got to meet Carol and George on Nb Rock ‘n’ Roll who we have only met fleetingly in the past.  Great to meet you both finally and hope you enjoy the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, we did.

Tixall 001 George and Carol on n/b Rock 'n' Roll with Derek.

Tixall 002 Carol with us outside their boat Rock ‘n’ Roll, courtesy of George the photographer.  I have included this one so that our friends in New Zealand can see that Dot is here too.  The comments were that all the photos are of myself and not Dot, that’s what happens to photographers.

Now a message for the Towpath Telegraph. Since our arrival we have found out that some bright spark in the council health and safety has deemed that the buses stopping to pick up and drop off on the bridge over the canal is dangerous and the buses are no longer permitted to stop here. If you want to catch the bus into Stafford you now have to walk up into the village via the railway underpass where there is no footpath for several hundred yards and run the gauntlet with the oncoming traffic. Now what is more dangerous I ask you! Needless to say I saw red at this and have sent off emails to the council and Arriva buses, as of yet no response. Even resident boaters in the Great Haywood marina are up in arms over the situation.

2214 locks, 4249.07 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A day to forget.

Today was a day that Dot wouldn’t want to repeat very often. She suffers from Trigeminal Neuralgia, which if you don’t know what this is look it up on Google and it will scare the pants off you. Well it has been in remission for the past 3 years but over the last few months has been rearing it’s ugly head again and finally yesterday gave her hell all day and half the night.

Only one thing for it but to call an ambulance this morning as she had been unable to eat or drink for 36 hours. We were whisked off to Stafford hospital which has been receiving a lot of bad press lately. We found the A&E staff very helpful and despite a sign indicating a 2 hour wait we were in the system being processed within an hour. This medical condition is a rare one and not many in the medical profession are aware of it but low and behold the Eastern European doctor who attended Dot knew exactly what it was. He soon had Dot stabilised with a strong pain killer injection and a saline drip as she was dehydrated.

After a few tests to preclude any possible misdiagnosis we were given a prescription and letter of referral to our own doctor and were on our way back to the boat within 4 hours. Pretty good for the NHS.

Back at the boat it was nice to meet up with Mike and Denise on Nb Densie who we cruised with in the London area and have crossed path’s several times over the last couple of years.

Hopefully Dot will get a good night’s sleep on her new stronger tablets and be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. Apparently the tablets supplied back in 2005 in NZ were much stronger than the prescription she received in the UK in 2007 hence the fact they had become ineffective.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Your place or mine?

1 Lock, 2.66 miles. Now moored at Tixall Wide.

Our overnight moorings didn’t work out too bad with only 1 train headed by a noisy diesel engine going past early this morning. The canal wasn’t particularly wide at this point and there was a lot of passing boats so we decided it might be wise to move on before we got sideswiped by 1 of the many hire boats.

Penkridge 013 Swimming pool and changing shed behind the fence. Nice if you can get it.

The obvious choice to head for was Tixall Wide, but knowing how popular this place is, would there be any moorings? Well luck was on our side and we got a very pleasant mooring and since our arrival we have now been joined by at least 10 other boats which extend around the bend out of sight.

Penkridge 016 Tixall lock with the beautifully kept lock cottage.

As it was a fine afternoon I took the opportunity to service the engine and have a clean up in the engine hole which has been neglected over winter.

The resident Swan (cob) has been to see us several times for a feed of pellets but his mate has kept her distance. The cob has built a huge nest pile opposite our mooring but his mate doesn’t appear interested. She seems to have built a small nest about 100 yards away and has been hanging around there. They were both swimming around when we arrived but she has settled down on her nest for the night. The cob however had an afternoon siesta on his nest but is now back on the water cruising up and down the moored boats looking for an easy meal.

2214 locks, 4248.22 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 5 April 2010

Creeping closer to Great Haywood

6 Locks, 6.96 Miles. Now moored nr bridge 102.

We had done our dash at Penkridge on the 5 day moorings so it was time to move on. Today’s weather didn’t turn out to be the fine day that was forecast but we only had a few light showers.

Penkridge 004Very nice canal side property on the Staffs & Worcs Canal at Park Gate Lock near Penkridge.

Penkridge 006 Sunday, might have known it, Fishermen!  Why do they all think the fish are on the opposite side of the canal?

There were plenty of the expected hire boats on the move, some having travelled quite long distance’s. Moorings along this stretch of the Staffs & Worcs Canal are scarce as we found out on several occasions getting stuck in the mud while still several feet out from the towpath. Seeing one boat moored just past bridge 102 we thought we would try again which proved successful. It is close to the railway line so we will see how it goes overnight. If it proves too noisy we will move again tomorrow down to Tixall Wide which should be quieter providing the moorings are not full.

Penkridge 008 Conservatory dining rooms at "The Moat House", Acton Russell.  Look at all those lovely Daffs.

Penkridge 010 Want a pot anyone? Quant little gardening trolley.

2213 locks, 4245.56 miles, 91 tunnels, 130 swing bridges and 58 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 3 April 2010

It Pays to Complain

While on our travels around the BCN we travelled over the Walsall Canal which was not an enthralling experience. At the end of the day I emailed BW to pass on my thoughts and details of problems incurred.

Yesterday, probably not the best day (April Fools Day) to respond but we received the following from BW West Midlands.

“Thank you for contacting British Waterways, West Midlands Office.

I have spoken to the supervisor for the area and he has informed me of the following.

The Walsall Canal is plagued by fly tipping, we have a rubbish removal boat that cleans the canal every 6 weeks and removes large quantities of rubbish each time.  Unfortunately, as this canal is classed as “remainder canal” we only have a small amount of money that we can use for its maintenance unlike the rest of the canal network which is given higher priority and a bigger budget.

We are doing all that we can to maintain the canal with the money we have and we also have volunteers at the moment who are assisting with the maintenance and clearing up.

If any extra funding is available in the future then we will be able to do extra works in the area.

The supervisor will take note of your comments and do all we can to make improvements.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Penkridge Market.

The weather wasn’t as bad as what is being experienced in Scotland or Ireland but it was very cold. Walking into the cold prevailing wind and light rain was stinging our faces as we headed into town to check out the market.

The market, partly open and partly under cover was still well patronised despite the weather. Even part of the farmers market section was in use selling live chickens, turkeys and ducks which gave it a real rural atmosphere with the roosters trying to out crow each other. We had to feel sorry for the open air stall holders  trying to keep warm in the freezing cold conditions.

The takeaway van was doing a roaring trade in jacket potato’s and steaming hot coffee but we opted to head back to the boat for lunch. We didn’t come away empty handed as I bought 2 casual tops and a cardigan to go with the trouser’s I picked up from the hospice shop yesterday. The latter were brand new with the original docket on them for £19, I got a bargain and only paid £4.